Vulnerability as Creativity: A Spiritual Discipline

by James Morley.

Two themes have been constant in what I’ve been reading, watching and listening to recently: creativity and vulnerability.

I don’t think this has been an echo chamber of my own construction as the books and videos have been recommendations from others and those to whom I’ve been listening were keynote speakers at conferences I attended as part of the ‘day job’.

At one of these conferences I had an opportunity to share the creativity of original paintings (not mine), music, video and spoken word in a collaboration with a colleague and visual artist to a conference full of Methodist Superintendents. The gift of this opportunity for creativity also gave with it the opportunity for me to experience vulnerability: who was I to be doing this; what if people didn’t come; what if they came but turned around and walked straight back out again?

Yet out of the vulnerability of offering this creativity came creative conversations with delegates about the creativity within us all and what happens when we don’t have, or don’t give ourselves as a gift from God, a place and a space to express this creativity.

Why is creativity so important to us, be it: painting; composing; connecting with nature; constructing; designing; engineering; singing; or theorising?  Could it be because it is the work of the Spirit within all creation?  The deep calling to deep?[1]  One of my favourite pieces of art is a sketch by William Blake of the Trinity.[2]  It shows a kneeling human figure holding a reclining (dead?) human figure. Hovering (brooding?) above them is another figure, long arms (wings?) outstretched – are they holding, embracing, encircling the other two figures like the hands of a potter around clay on the wheel?  Does this sketch say that only the Spirit can create hope and new life from within the devastation and death of the cross?

As someone who has spent twenty years trying and failing to write a happy song or poem I can relate to the idea that creativity comes from a place of utter vulnerability and is a way in which we process and express the dirt, devastation and dilemmas of our human experience within creation and, through the work of the Sprit, give song to our hopes.[3]  From the poetry of the psalms to the polemic of the protest song we lament what is and dream about what may be. In so doing we are invited to join in with the missio dei as the kin-dom continues to become reality in this world.

There is plenty of vulnerability and yearning for hope to be found today: within ourselves; within (certainly the numerical decline in the Methodist) church; and within the world.  As part of our theology, our talk about God, it is vitally important and important for our vitality, that we engage creatively with the creativity within ourselves – it’s not surprising that writing and drawing are tools often used within counselling (and even Methodist supervision).  It is also vitally important and important for our vitality as disciples and church that we engage creatively with the creativity within our cultural context(s):[4] not just Bach but the boy bands too; not just the Gainsborough but the graffiti; not just the Mozart but the Mastadon.  Why?  To be, like St Paul at the Areopagus, culturally relevant in what we say as good news and how we say it?[5]  Yes, but primarily because this theology, this talk of God really is (already) everywhere: in the car on the radio (or via Bluetooth from our preferred Alexa, Android or iDevice); on the railway bridge in spray paint; on the television as well as in the theatre.

As we notice this creativity, created from within vulnerability: what good news does it speak to us in our vulnerability;  what good news can we creatively name within it and speak into it, and into our cultural context, as we join in with the work of the Spirit creating God’s kin-dom on this earth[6].

So, I invite you to try something. I invite you to prayerfully, meditatively listen to this piece of music as you prayerfully, meditatively look at these pictures of paintings by Sally Coleman.[7]

19.06.24 James Morley, painting by Sally Coleman 2

19.06.24 James Morley, painting by Sally Coleman

[1] Psalm 42:7

[2] http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/ttp/blake/accessible/folion105andn104.html

[3] Joanne Cox-Darling (2019).  Finding God in a Culture of Fear: Discovering Hope in God’s Kingdom.  Abingdon: BRF, pp. 102; 104; 121).

[4] David Wilkinson speaking at the Methodist Church Superintendent’s Conference, Blackpool, 3rd June 2019.

[5] Acts 17

[6] Mark R. Teasdale (2016).  Evangelism for Non-Evangelists: Sharing the Gospel Authentically.  Illinois: IVP Academic.    

[7] https://eternalfootsteps.wordpress.com/

6 thoughts on “Vulnerability as Creativity: A Spiritual Discipline”

  1. Thank you James. Not my own observation, but Tom Stuckey (in a seminar at Sarum College if I recall correctly) remarked that the cross and Christ’s death represents a place of vulnerability. Yet, in that moment, the creative power of the Spirit was released, with its parallel in the chaos of creation (Genesis 1:2) and in the vulnerability of wilderness, in the sense that the emptiness there represents not only a place of challenge but a place of possibility.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. my reflection would be that there is always a place of chaos in creativity, certainly for me there is almost always a time when I feel that I have ruined a painting, and somehow it then comes together again. Spoken word can be edited, and often is, somehow with a painting every stroke is full of risk ( emptiness) and possibility.

      Like

  2. my reflection would be that there is always a place of chaos in creativity, certainly for me there is almost always a time when I feel that I have ruined a painting, and somehow it then comes together again. Spoken word can be edited, and often is, somehow with a painting every stroke is full of risk ( emptiness) and possibility.

    Like

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